I packed nearly everything for 'Fetti on Thursday night. That was smart. Not so smart: I did not pack all my stuff til Friday morning, and nearly forgot a pillow for myself at home as a result. Oops! Lesson learned, I need to quit procrastinating on such things.
Pony loaded well, trailered well, settled into ridecamp well - all things I've come to expect. If she has a haybag, life is good. Camp was surprisingly pleasant and breezy on Friday, despite the forecast high of 88 and calm for Saturday. We set up a large bucket of water and bungee-corded it to the trailer in hopes that last year's performance of knocking over water buckets for fun could be avoided.
Good thing: she drank! She'd eat some hay, drink some water, eat some more hay, grab some more water. Convincing this horse that she needs to drink has been a perpetual problem, and I think we're finally through it. The 2" hole haynet kept her occupied for just about six hours with two flakes in there. Not great, but not terrible either.
We vetted in easy enough, front Renegades on, no comments. Unfortunately, no initial pulse given either. (Luckily, it was substantially LESS thorough than last year!) 'Fetti fell asleep in the moderately-long line when it was just about our turn, so I'd been hoping they would.. ah well. I skipped a pre-ride and walked her about a bit instead.
The calm, relaxed horse got a bit lost by the time I tacked up the next morning. I allowed myself extra time to make sure I got the electrodes and the saddle in the right place. I fiddled with the placement of the under-saddle electrode a few times, finally got a reading, and called it good enough. That electrode has never been a problem before. Last year taught me that I really do want a HRM running on her, especially in the heat, so I can keep a better eye on how hard she's actually working and taper off as soon as I think she might need it. I hopped on, we walked around a bit, and the pony made it very clear she thought we should be back at the trailer with the haybag, not standing around with all these people and dumb fired-up horses. We did make it over to the start at a reasonable time and with some forwards momentum.
Unlike our previous two LDs, this time I had no one in particular I was planning to ride with. We alternated groups a lot, tried some riding by ourselves, and ended up riding with our camping neighbor for probably half of the first loop if not more - just not all at once. I knew I had to make time in the morning when it was cooler; even clipped, Fetti's not a horse used to high heat and that gets hard on her. We stuck behind her for a bit, passed when I thought Fetti had a brain, and promptly discovered that she wanted nothing to do with riding by herself. She'd go, all right, but it was a go spurred by the knowledge that there were horses in front of her! and she wanted to catch up to them! and it was absolutely awful learning that we were not going to get a polite, relaxed walk on the trail by ourselves.
So we trotted, and trotted, and walked whenever someone ahead of us walked, and trotted and trotted and BIG POWER TROTTED some more. I tried to keep her slow, she threw a minor hissy fit, and I decided I was not willing to ride out potentially dangerous antics on this trail. So I rated her a little less than I had, and a lot more than she would have liked, but just enough that she mostly tolerated it. In part, this was based on the knowledge that we had to make time, and dangit if the horse was going, I guess that'll help us make time so long as she pulses down and I still have horse left. Luckily, we met back up with our camping buddy two or three miles out from the check, so we trot/walk/trotted that section with her. (I made it clear to her at the outset: you do what your horse needs to do, I'm not asking to ride with you the whole ride, I just need a horse with a brain to follow for a few minutes! and she was fine with that, and we both rode our own rides that happened to intersect fairly often.) Oh, and somewhere in that first half of the ride we ran into ground bees. I'm pretty sure Fetti got stung, she was clearly head-tossy and uncomfortable right after, but no worse for the wear after another mile to forget about it.
Somewhere in that first half of the ride, the HRM quit working. I was baffled, but not concerned enough to try to fix it given how impolite the pony was being. I walked her in to the vet check at pony-walk speeds, pulled tack and gave her a couple minutes to drink, and at that point she was down to 60. Just about 13 miles in, 2hours 40 minutes. (In hindsight, my tracking shows it was closer to 13.5 miles, but I forgot to turn it off until she was all vetted in with alfalfa so I'm not exactly sure). I looked for wires once everything was off the horse - and discovered that one of the HRM wires was entirely gone. That explained a lot! Unfortunate, but okay, I rode this last year with no HRM, I will make do.
Unfortunately, our camping-buddy's horse got pulled here. Also unfortunately, I was a little fuzzy on where exactly the trail was supposed to go immediately out of the check. It's likely a sign was moved or relocated or something after the ride started. I kicked and swatted the pony out of the gate.. started trotting along.. looked at the map.. sighed and reversed to ask where the heck I was supposed to go. I probably left the check five minutes after officially leaving the first time, following two bays for the first little loop until I could get my bearings back. I sent her ahead of them after a bit, and eventually caught up to two local-ish riders, one of whom knew the trail. I think I ended up riding with them for pretty much the rest of the ride. I knew timing was going to be close, I wasn't sure how much trail was left, and they were doing enough walk breaks for me to be comfortable with it. When they got off and walked down a long hill towards the end, I got off and walked at pony-speed. Hopped back on at the water trough, finally got the silly horse going FORWARDS and not trying to turn around (seriously!), and trotted down another hill or two.. only to see the nearly-the-end gate and hop right back off to walk her in.
Even with pulling tack right when I got in and sponging perpetually, it took ten minutes and a spot of shade for her to come down to 'right at 60'. That was pretty impressive. I still have visions of hosing down Fetti in the sun and doing everything possible last year, and it still took a good 20+ minutes for her to pulse down to 60. I have no illusions about ever walking right in to a check and having her down, but it's nice to have the time drop!
A barn friend found us shortly after she pulsed down and helped me move tack to the trailer, sponge her off, and even trotted her out for me - which was really nice, since my feet were hurting and my knee was a bit sore. I could have done it, but with someone fresh willing, it seemed silly not to let her do it instead. All A's at the finish. Yay! Relocated pony to the trailer where she happily went back to inhaling hay and drinking water. She was much less tired than she looked after Fireworks; I'm not really sure how that worked. Total ride time minus 45min hold: just about 4h45min.
So, good things:
1. I clipped before this ride. Forecast was for 88; when a friend left around 3 or 4 it was 91, so I'm thinking possibly even a bit warmer than that. 'Fetti has a lot of her winter coat already and I am SO glad I clipped.
2. Camelbak is the best decision I made for me on this ride, no contest. I just about never had two hands free to open a water bottle, we walked a lot less than usual, I fought with her a lot more than usual. I think I was dehydrated by the end, but I can't imagine how much worse it would have been without the nearly hands-free drinking at the trot. At home, if we're riding in 90 degree weather, we have shade and river breezes.. not full sun. That's tough on both of us.
3. Carrots! Funder, I remembered your suggestion last year of giving carrots on a regular basis. Her gut sounds were a B at the out vet check, but most of a bag of carrots later, an A at the final check.. even without letting her inhale hay back at the trailer.
4. We've done a lot of our little 6-mile loop at home almost entirely at a trot. I know she's capable of trotting that much without walk breaks and won't wilt at the end. Tired? Yes. Exhausted? No. We've never ridden this fast aside from Ride Bear last year where I know I pushed her a bit more than I should have. I think our conditioning is finally starting to pay off. All but three of our mile-splits are over 5mph, and I never pushed for speed, only growled at her about which direction she had to go in. I spent most of the ride hauling on her face. It's a very different feeling to our usual.
5. We rode our own ride. I won't say it was MY ride, because it wasn't the one I was going for.. but it was a Fig/Fetti compromise ride. I thought it was quite dumb of her on a regular basis - but she proved she can do it at that speed even if I think she's being an idiot, so it somewhat balances out.
6. 'Fetti drank at nearly every water trough. Words cannot express how happy that made me. I had some very real concerns that she might not, and with the forecast heat, that would have been Very Bad.
7. I had horse left at the end. She wasn't exhausted. Her walk that evening was better than the walk the afternoon before the ride - pony feels GOOD. I'm not at all sure why, but I'm very happy with it.
Not so good things:
1. No ride photographer. :( First ride where I felt like we did particularly well, too!
2. Pony lost her usual Haflinger-brain and kicked into herdbound running brain. We're doing rides solo at home and she's generally fine - but then there aren't thirty other horses ahead of and behind us. I know she prefers to be with others. I can live with it being a preference. I'm less happy with it being a necessity in her head where she will run off with me otherwise, and that's how it felt.
3. I did not eat nearly enough, even accounting for a migraine both days (likely heat/dehydration-induced), and I absolutely have to work on that.
Overall? An absolutely spectacular success. We're starting to get this thing figured out! Photos coming whenever I can get them off my phone.
** Extra bonus success: the key to fitting my Specialized appears to be.. the 1" fitting cushions, rather than the 3/4" or 1/2" I have and was using. Problem potentially solved. Needs a ride to confirm, but looks much improved that way, go figure.